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Best Persona games, ranked worst to best

(Image credit: Atlus)

With Personal 5 Royal on the horizon, you might be getting ready for your first foray into the mysterious Metaverse. If you’re already a fan, this is the time to once again hang out with your favourite characters in Atlus’ virtual Tokyo. Persona 5 is one of the best JRPGs of recent years, but is it the best Persona game? We’ve taken a look at all 6 parts of the popular spin-off to the Shin Megami Tensei series and can tell you which other part to of the series to play next.

6. Revelations: Persona 

(Image credit: Atlus)

The first Persona game, released in 1996 for PS1, doesn’t have any of the features we associate with the series now – the music isn’t quite funky enough, there are no bright colours, and the social links with your teammates don’t exist yet. Instead, Revelations sticks with the horror theme of the original Shin Megami Tensei series, expanding on the high school setting of Shin Megami Tensei If…

By now this instalment of the series looks a bit drab, and the battle system, while it established some of the elements that by now make Persona combat so refreshing, like negotiating with enemies to various effects, reached its limit fairly quickly. Add to that the fairly uninspired level design, and it’s fair to say that by now there are plenty of better Persona games available to play.

5. Persona 2: Innocent Sin 

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Persona 2: Innocent Sin is easy to overlook because it didn’t make it to the West until the PSP remake finally got localised in 2011. Before that, the story was deemed too dependent on an understanding of Japanese culture, and contained too much potentially offensive content to work for Western audiences. While this part of the series introduced the ability to summon Persona, it gave up on negotiations, which is, of course, a shame in hindsight.

The story is pretty convoluted, featuring Nazis, Mayan cultists and prophecies of the end of the world. Even though it’s just as confusing as other JRPGs that released in that era of games, P2 always too the more adult approach to a JRPG story than its competitors, which may be exactly what you’re looking for.

4. Persona 2: Eternal Punishment

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There are no huge differences between Persona 2: Innocent Sin and Persona 2: Eternal Punishment, as the idea to this sequel was born during the development of the main game and uses many of its assets. Eternal Punishment is set in an alternate timeline to Innocent Sin, and Maya, a team member from the previous entry, becomes the protagonist here. Together with her friends, she hunts the mysterious “Joker”, who murders on request and has the power to make people act on their worst desires, which is similar to the later Persona games’ interpretation of the Collective Unconscious.

Eternal Punishment improves over its predecessor by finally giving you both summons and negotiations in battle, and it uses an interesting rumour system. Unfortunately, battles become unbalanced due to a challenging levelling and spell cost system for Personas, but it’s an overall better game both in plot and mechanics and should be recognised as such.

3. Persona 4 

(Image credit: Atlus)

It can be argued that the individual placements of Persona 3, Persona 4 and Persona 5 on any ranking of the franchise come down more to personal preference than gameplay elements: in all three of them you fight monsters called Shadows in a world parallel to our own, you capture Persona and create and manage them in the Velvet Room. Social Links tell you more about your friends and allow you influence the level of your caught monsters. In short, the basic building blocks are much the same. 

From Persona 4 onwards, players can control each party member individually if they want to, which allows for better strategizing, but if you enjoy the combination of regular JRPG turn-based combat with using your Personas and exploiting the weaknesses of your foes, you’ll find that in all three titles, albeit with various levels of grinding involved.

What makes Persona 4 very different from the other instalments is its overall presentation. It’s immensely bright, both in its design as well as its plot. To those remembering Persona as a spin-off from a series with strong horror elements, the bubbly comedy of P4 is a big departure from the series. Overall more of a supernatural whodunnit with the philosophical elements loosely mixed in, this is a great game for anyone who enjoys anime tropes more than explorations of the dark depths of the human psyche.

2. Persona 5

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The probably biggest criticism you can level against Persona 5 in comparison with the other Persona games is that it massively overstays its welcome. At a playtime between 80 and 120 hours depending on your style, it even segues into an ending before going whoops, wait, there’s more. 

Persona 5 gets the most out of the gameplay series of the system, making sure that no encounter gets too long if you exploit your enemies’ weaknesses properly, but unfortunately this also makes it pretty easy on normal difficulty. The plot is the same mix of sweet and sour, light-hearted but more serious than Persona 4, with plenty of thought put into its Jungian roots. This game has arguably the best social links out of the series, and it’s fun to meet your team members one after another and hang with them in a plethora of well-known locations around Tokyo. On top of all that, P5 is just incredibly stylish, right down to a typeface that’s so iconic people have previously cosplayed it.

1. Persona 3

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As the first part of the series to use social links, we owe Persona 3 the social and dating elements that added a lot of flavour to the series. It also overhauled the battle system, in order to function more like round-based title such as Final Fantasy, even though you can only control the player character.

When it comes to the overall experience, Persona 3 comes closest to the sombre tone of the Shin Megami Tensei series without being too gloomy. Overall Persona 3 asks more difficult questions, without delving into silly or problematic territory as often as Persona 4 and Persona 5 do. Additionally, it boasts a great cast and it’s aged well – if you like Persona, don’t sleep on this one.